While conventional methods for assessing Holocene changes in landcover prove fruitful for assessing broad changes, short and abrupt changes to local landscapes are harder to identify. Events such as soil erosion represent significant alterations to landscapes within the lived experience of individuals in the Holocene, the narrative of which may be missed by pollen analysis and macrobotanical methods. These changes may be climatic or anthropogenic, but could still have had impacts on local communities, especially across prehistoric periods.
Sediment-stratigraphic analyses were employed at the Bradford Kaims in north-east England to establish the age, magnitude, frequency, and landscape change impact of colluvial sediments when excavation had recovered no evidence for human activity other than a large suite of non-domestic Bronze Age burnt mounds. The methodology combined conventional AMS 14C dating and sediment characterisation with more novel techniques, such as portable OSL and soil micromorphology, to recover a chronology of prehistoric soil erosion that preceded and post-dated excavated evidence, resulting in very significant landscape change. This landscape change was characterised by very abrupt episodes of erosion across numerous periods, some associated with settlement use, some with industrial activity, and some with riverine avulsion and climatic shifts.
We hope to present these findings as evidence of a successful methodology for assessing abrupt and short-lived landscape change in the Holocene.